Nigeria has a flourishing music scene. But, thanks to rampant piracy, its musicians don’t make the money they deserve. Now, MTN’s and Huawei’s Music+ service is giving Nigeria’s music-mad population a viable alternative to cheap illegal CDs.

MEF’s features editor Tim Green recently interviewed the service’s marketing manager Ebere Nzewi for MEF’s Africa eBulletin which also contains insights, news and case studies.  Download the full eBulletin here.

    Piracy is still a big problem here. We are doing our best to offer a legal alternative that’s easy for people to find, and affordable to use.

Late in 2015, MTN and Huawei launched the Music+ NextRated campaign. The big idea was to encourage unsigned Nigerian artists to upload their tracks to MTV’s growing music download and streaming channel. And, in so doing, to the 1.6m active subscribers using MTN Music+ at the time.

The initiative was not just about boosting awareness of the MNO’s music channel and giving unsigned artists unprecedented publicity. It was also yet another strike against the piracy that is holding back an otherwise flourishing local music scene.

According to Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics data reported by the FT, the domestic film and music industries contribute nearly 1.5 per cent to the country’s GDP. The country’s music scene is central to the cultural identity of Nigeria. Meanwhile its movie scene – Nollywood – is the third biggest in the world.

Ebere Nzewi, marketing manager at Huawei Nigeria

Ebere Nzewi, marketing manager at Huawei Nigeria

But piracy cuts the potential revenues these sectors could command. It’s rife. In fact, piracy is embedded into the way the industry works. Nigeria is home to influential music blogs, which are linked to the illegal reproduction of CDs that sell in markets for just a few cents.

But local artists are caught in a dilemma. They can make significant money from corporate sponsorships once they are well-known. These blogs offer a route to fame. It’s why many artists collude with them.

Thankfully, legitimate new services like MTN Music+ – which was built and managed by Huawei – have started a fight back.

Ebere Nzewi, content operation and marketing manager for Music+, says: “Piracy is still a big problem here. We are doing our best to offer a legal alternative that’s easy for people to find, and affordable to use. We also use watermarking to identify when songs are illegally copied. But some artists are still releasing songs to the blogs. It’s a cultural thing that will take time to change.”

    Including data in subscriptions was important. It makes people relax and willing to try out the app. We also charge by airtime, which ensures that the payment method is easy and available to everyone.

MTN Music+ is a subscription based music streaming and download platform. Users can access it through web, mobile web and mobile native app. They can listen to current and trending songs, create playlists, share music, gift music and enjoy offline streaming.

New users can try the service out free for a month, then there are three subscriptions options – N100, N300 and N800, all of which roll in a data allowance so users don’t get bill shock.

In all facets of the service, MTN and Huawei have worked hard to remove friction. Nzewi says: “Including data in subscriptions was important. It makes people relax and willing to try out the app. We also charge by airtime, which ensures that the payment method is easy and available to everyone.”

With 3.3m subs now, MTN Music+ is more than playing its part in offering Nigerian musicians a legitimate music option. In fact, it paid over more than N500m in revenues across eight months to local artists. The service also works hard to source exclusive songs such as Wyclef’s Divine Sorrow (a chart topper) – all of which brings added attention to the channel.

Now, Huawei is looking to expand the service. It is targeting more operators across more countries and preparing to add more payment options including credit card. The company is also preparing to add more content types, including podcasts.

The second quarterly edition of MEF’s Africa eBulletin contains case studies, interviews, a round-up of news from the region, information on VAS regulation in Nigeria, as well as market stats and an exclusive preview of MEF’s forthcoming Global Messaging Report which puts consumers in Nigeria and South Africa under the spotlight.  Download the full eBulletin here.

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